Every so often, we receive an artisanal food item in the mail accompanied by a long note (sometimes handwritten) from the producer (not a publicist, importer or retailer) asking if our staff could give it a try. And every once in a while, we're amazed by how good that food item is. Some of my favorites: the aptly named We Love Jam apricot jam, and exceptional flatbreads from Jennifer's Homemade.

Some almond butter jars that fall into both categories (handwritten note? check; amazing? check) recently arrived on my desk. Made by Jennifer Barney, a mother of four in California's almond-rich San Joaquin Valley, Barney Butter's Crunchy Almond Butter, made with roasted local almonds and a touch of cane juice, is superbly crunchy and fresh tasting. What I love best, though, is its mellow sweetness, a nice alternative to the assertive sugary flavor of most peanut butters.